In the long and illustrious history of the University of California, Ernest Orlando Lawrence stands out as one of its most distinguished scholars and certainly its most influential physicist. His invention of the cyclotron in the waning days of 1929 earned him a Nobel Prize, the first to be awarded to a UC faculty member. The invention accelerated the revolution then underway in physics and led to the formation of the great laboratories at Berkeley and Livermore that bear his name today.
His multidisciplinary approach to science became the model for national laboratories across the United States. In the years before large scale government funding, as the shadow of world war spread across the oceans, his unselfish willingness to share the resources of his laboratory set a standard for public service to the nation that remains with us today.
On this centennial anniversary of Ernest Orlando Lawrence’s birth, the University of California proudly takes note of his great scientific accomplishments and his enduring legacy of public service. — Richard C. Atkinson
Ernest Orlando Lawrence died on August 27, 1958. His death brought forth an outpouring of tributes. Here is a small sample of what was said.
"My own career in science has a great deal of its foundation in Ernest Lawrence’s contributions and generosity, his buoyant optimism, and his invincible spirit. He was one of a rare company of men in history who lend majesty and hope to human existence."
"Ernest Lawrence was one of the greatest pioneers of science in world history and one of the greatest administrators of scientific research."
— Clark Kerr, former UC President
"The achievements of Ernest Lawrence represented the highest standard of scholarly excellence, but it is of Ernest the man I am thinking today; of his vitality and integrity, his friendliness and modesty."
— Robert Gordon Sproul, president emeritus of the University of California.
"His loss is a tragic one for the United States and for the entire free world."
— Dwight D. Eisenhower
"His were truly magnificent attainments and were all geared to the eventual attainment of peace in our world and the betterment of humanity in general."
— Goodwin J. Knight, Governor of California
"He helped solve the most fantastic problems ever faced by scientists and will go down in history as a distinguished scientist, a distinguished inventor, and a distinguished administrator."
— Major General Leslie R. Groves, director of the Manhattan Project.
"The real difficulty is that there isn’t an Ernest Lawrence anymore."
— Luis Alvarez, Nobel laureate physicist, and one of "Ernie’s boys."